ST. LOUIS - Although Dennis Seidenberg struggles to find an accurate description, the Bruins defenseman defines scoring first as being in a happy place.
“You just settle into a comfort level once you score,’’ Seidenberg said. “You’re more comfortable. It’s tough to explain. It’s just a different feeling. Playing with a lead, you’re just more comfortable.’’
The numbers prove Seidenberg correct. When the Bruins have scored first, they are the second-best team in the NHL. They have won 84.6 percent of the games in which they’ve gotten on the scoreboard first, trailing only the Rangers (90.3 percent).
Trouble is, those first goals have been elusive.
In 13 of their last 20 games, the Bruins have allowed their opponents to score first. Aside from a 5-3 win over Winnipeg Jan. 24 and a 4-1 victory over New Jersey Jan. 19, the Bruins have lost 11 of those 13 games. In 15 of their last 17 games, they have been either tied or behind after 40 minutes.
“It’s tough,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “That’s the one area where you certainly wish we could make better. Having to spot the other team the first goal night after night certainly makes it hard on us.
“We’ve proven in the past that we’re a pretty good team when we score that first goal. It makes a big difference in our game.’’
Structurally, the Bruins are far stouter at protecting leads than trying to overcome them. When they’re clicking, they rely on their goaltending. Their defensemen are efficient at repelling opposing rushes. Their forwards collapse and help to defend net-front chances.
But having a lead has also led to a mental advantage. The Bruins play with swagger when they’re ahead. Conversely, when they’re chasing the game, they play with too much doubt and indecision.
“When you get that first goal and you start to feel better about yourself, you can build some momentum and work more to get that next one,’’ Milan Lucic said. “As of late, it’s been kind of tough getting that first one.
“As you saw in Montreal, we were able to get that first one and build off that. Other than that lately, we haven’t been able to get that first one.
“Even though we get down a goal or two goals, we shouldn’t let that deflate us. We should find a way to get ourselves back in the game and not get frustrated.’’
Camper in tow
Rookie Carter Camper, recalled from Providence, participated in his first NHL practice yesterday at the Scottrade Center. Camper could make his big-league debut tonight against St. Louis.
“I see a guy capable of making plays,’’ Julien said. “Smart player. So we’ll see what goes on from here moving forward.’’
Camper is Providence’s leading scorer (14-24-38 in 53 games). The 23-year-old center was most recently between Calle Ridderwall and Zach Hamill.
In yesterday’s practice, Camper alternated shifts with Josh Hennessy between Jordan Caron and Benoit Pouliot. The right-shot Camper could get the nod tonight if the coaches believe he brings more offensive touch than Hennessy.
“Earlier in the year, I was trying to figure out my game and figure out what I can and can’t do down there,’’ Camper said of adjusting from college hockey to the AHL. “We’re 50 games into the season. I’ve been able to transition to the pros with the help of some older guys and some good linemates. It’s the same game we’ve been playing our entire lives. It’s just playing with better players now.’’
Camper will wear No. 58.
A right move
Julien pushed the Bruins through a 75-minute practice yesterday, one of the longest sessions of the season. David Krejci, a center throughout his career, remained on the right wing alongside Lucic and Chris Kelly. Julien made the switch in the third period of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota. “It feels good,’’ Lucic said of the new configuration. “We’ve got to get the puck moving forward. We’ve got to do what we did last game and spend most of the time in the offensive zone. I think a key thing for the three of us is support. If we’re coming up the ice with one another and making good, hard, crisp passes, that’s when we’re going to have success.’’
Down a dozen
Nathan Horton (concussion) has yet to resume skating on his own. Horton will miss his 12th straight game tonight . . . St. Louis will be without Jamie Langenbrunner tonight. The Blues placed the hard-nosed wing on injured reserve yesterday. Langenbrunner broke his foot against Chicago Sunday and will miss the next month. Langenbrunner played for Julien in New Jersey in 2006-07 . . . Julien halted one drill yesterday when his forwards didn’t come back hard enough during a neutral-zone regroup. “Go again,’’ Julien barked. “You want to [expletive] lollygag during the game? Go again.’’ . . . The Blues have lost in regulation only three times at home.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.